Friday, December 27, 2013

Financial Obedience

                My husband and I have always struggled financially. There have been months of plenty and then years of poverty. Some days we seem to do okay and we get by. Other days it seems like we just can’t seem to make it. Most of us are in this situation, or have been at some point in our lives. Finances seem to be the center of every problem and every argument in our families. Over the years, the Lord and I have talked about tithing. I have heard many pastors preach on it, and some even demanding it from us. As I was praying this morning about the word “obedience” that God has given me for 2014, I asked Him in what areas of my life does He need my obedience? His response was “Financial Obedience”.

                Financial obedience is not something that I have been good at over the years. Finances are always a subject that leads my husband and me into arguments and conflict. Whenever we talk about finances we end up getting into an argument. He wants to know where the money goes, and I want to know why we never seem to have enough. I have managed the finances for our family for over ten years, and we have come a long way. But there is always this sense that we could be doing more. We give to our church, giving what we can when we can, but there always seems to be this desire, this sense that we could be doing so much more. That is where the Lord spoke to me today- in regards to financial obedience.
                Many of us know that tithing is part of being a Christian. Each Sunday we take from our wallets what we can give to the Lord; put it in an offering plate or in a box at the back of the church. We give without thought, and we give freely. But, speaking from experience, there are some weeks that we just don’t have it. Some weeks even giving five dollars will put us into the red and cause us to go without gas in a vehicle. So what is the Lord referring to when He speaks about being financially obedient?
                “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts. ‘If I will not open for you such blessing that there will not be enough room to receive it.” Malachi 3:8-10
                Do we rob from God when we do not bring Him our tithes? In the Old Testament, tithing was a part of the Law of Moses. God commanded the children of Israel to bring Him a tenth of the first fruits of all their labors. When they did not do this, they were essentially taking for themselves what belonged to God. But, in the New Testament there really is no direct command from Jesus or God the Father to tithe. It only states that we are to give cheerfully and willingly. Does this mean then that we do not have to tithe?
                God said that the children of Israel were robbing Him. Is it possible to rob God? The word “rob” in this context means to deceive or defraud someone. In this case, the people were hiding from God (or so they thought) what they actually had and only brought to Him what they wanted to give. They were so focused on keeping enough for themselves that they hid from God what they actually had. I have found myself doing this from time to time. I know that the Lord wants me to give to a certain mission or a certain person, who is in need, but I look at my bank account and make excuses for why I can’t be obedient to His asking.
                To be financially obedient means that I do not look at what I have, but that I trust the God who gave me everything I do have. Psalm 24:1 says that the “earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” Everything I have is because the Lord allows me to have it. If He desires me to give some of what I have to someone else, is it really mine to withhold? My unwillingness to give financially, whether that is in the form of tithing, or in giving, reveals that my heart before God is not right. David Guziak writes in his commentary on Malachi 3:8-10 that “many people with financial problems fail to do the most important thing first: obey and honor God with their resources. When we put God and His kingdom first, He promises to meet our needs.” (David Guziak, Blue Letter Bible, Commentary on Malachi 3)
                The Lord has shown me my heart today in regards to my obedience in our finances. He has shown me that my unwillingness to give out of what I have is a show of ungratefulness towards His abundant giving. Nowhere else in the bible does God directly command His children to test Him, to try Him in a specific matter, except here in Malachi. He says, “try Me now in this”. God is speaking to my heart and telling me that He wants me to try Him, to put His faithfulness to the test and see if I can out give Him. Is it possible to out give God? If I truly desire to live a life of obedience to my God, than financial obedience is as important as obedience to His word, because He tells me to be a giver, He tells me to give financially in His word. I can’t be obedient to His word if I am not giving financially to Him.
Our giving reflects what is in our hearts. How I spend my money tells God where my heart is at. If I withhold my finances, my resources, my time, my gifts, and all that He has given me, then I am essentially robbing God from what is rightfully His. You may be a Christian who tithes, who gives freely and often to the kingdom of God. But I am learning that giving is more than just finances. We have so much more that we can give God if we really take the time to sit and listen to the needs of His people. Not only do missionaries suffer financially, but churches, children’s homes, nursing homes, homeless shelters, they all suffer from the lack of finances and willing hearts ready to give of what they have- including time.

                Tithing is more than money, it is a huge part of it, but there are so many other ways we could tithe to the Lord God in the upcoming year, and I want to encourage you all to go and pray and seek the Lord’s guidance in this area. Perhaps giving 10 % of your time to volunteer at your local homeless shelter, or giving 10% of your clothing to a shelter for battered women. Whatever the Lord is asking you to give; I pray that we would be willing to give because He has so willingly and freely given to us. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Maybe, just maybe if we do this, than the world we see our love instead of just hearing about it, and His kingdom would be blessed by our giving hearts. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever, amen and amen.